The State Senate Budget Committee is expected to approve the Fiscal year 2014 budget bill today. The final details are still being hammered out behind closed doors. With that as the backdrop, Rutgers New Brunswick students and recent graduates held a press conference today calling on local legislators to hold Gov. Chris Christie to his promise to increase higher education funding in his first term.

“When running for office, Governor Christie said it was disgraceful that New Jersey ranks among the bottom five for direct contribution to its public colleges and universities,” says Jalina Wyser, a junior at Rowan University. “Three years later he’s still right, but instead of keeping to his pledge to increase funding, he’s moved us backward to pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporations.”

Today’s event comes on the heels of a new report from New Jersey Policy Perspective that found investing in higher education could dramatically decrease the financial burden on students attending public colleges and universities. The report recommends increasing investment in student financial aid by $300 million over the next three years.

“Governor Christie’s tax breaks for the rich and corporations have been paid for by students and their families around the state,” says Rob Duffey, Policy and Communications Coordinator for the New Jersey Working Families Alliance. “Meanwhile, other states are actually increasing investment in higher education, which makes for less debt for college students and a better-trained and more competitive workforce. We need legislators with the courage and vision to promote those kinds of policies here in New Jersey.”

The budget proposed by Christie in February calls for an increase of $17 million in TAG Grant Program funding and restores aid to independent colleges with a $1 million increase in their funding. The plan also invests capital in state colleges and universities.

“For the first time in a quarter century, they voted overwhelmingly to invest in our children’s future,” said Christie in his budget address. “We will put to work this spring over $1.6 billion in state and private funds to build classrooms, laboratories and other facilities to grow and modernize our higher education system.”